Breaking News Bar
updated: 5/3/2014 8:45 AM

Fundraiser helping Elgin family after father's death, then fire during funeral

hello
Success - Article sent! close
  • The Estep family of Elgin suffered unimaginable loss after the sudden death of John H. Estep, 54, on April 19. While his wife Terrie, and children John and Samantha, were at his funeral a week later, their house caught on fire and their three pets died.

      The Estep family of Elgin suffered unimaginable loss after the sudden death of John H. Estep, 54, on April 19. While his wife Terrie, and children John and Samantha, were at his funeral a week later, their house caught on fire and their three pets died.
    courtesy OF Erica Gnadt

 
 

If someone should be mad at life or fate or a higher power, it's John T. Estep of Elgin.

But the 24-year-old says that's not the case, even though his family suffered triple-whammy heartbreak in the span of a week.

Order Reprint Print Article
 
Interested in reusing this article?
Custom reprints are a powerful and strategic way to share your article with customers, employees and prospects.
The YGS Group provides digital and printed reprint services for Daily Herald. Complete the form to the right and a reprint consultant will contact you to discuss how you can reuse this article.
Need more information about reprints? Visit our Reprints Section for more details.

Contact information ( * required )

Success - request sent close

Estep's father, 54-year-old John H. Estep, died of a heart attack April 19. A week later during his funeral, a house fire displaced the family and killed their three pets.

"The fact that happened in one day, it's certainly rare. But I wouldn't say we're angry. What is there to be angry at?" Estep said.

"We all get that this kind of thing happens. Everybody has hardships in their own lives."

Besides the support of friends and relatives, he said, a great source of comfort has been the unexpected kindness of people -- many of them strangers -- who have stepped up to help through an online fundraising campaign started by relative Erica Gnadt and neighbor Michael Bush.

The fire likely was sparked by a malfunctioning microwave oven and caused about $40,000 in damage, authorities said. The campaign set a goal of $20,000 and raised more than $7,700 as of Friday.

The Esteps are resilient, Gnadt said.

"Strong, fun-loving, compassionate, genuine -- there's the description of them in a nutshell," she said. "They have great faith that binds them to each other."

Estep and his mother, Terrie, are staying in a hotel in Schaumburg along with Terrie's sister Cindy Gentile and her daughter Amy Gentile, a senior at Elgin High School, he said. The Gentiles lived with the Esteps in Elgin.

His sister Samantha, 21, who is in college, will join them next week.

The elder John Estep, who loved his job as a truck driver, always took care of his family, his son said.

"He was always either happy or relaxed," he said. "I never saw him get angry. He never flew off the handle."

The family was attending a post-funeral luncheon in Carol Stream when they got the call about the fire and rushed home, he said.

"Driving onto my street my hands were so numb I could barely move the steering wheel," he said. "It's like, 'You extend your arms out and say, 'What the hell is going here?'"

Bush, an Oak Park firefighter who lives across the street, discovered the fire after coming home from the funeral.

The kitchen was destroyed and the rest of the two-story house was damaged by a layer of soot.

He and his son went inside to look for the Esteps' pets -- a cat, a cocker spaniel and a golden retriever -- but couldn't find them amid the thick smoke.

The Esteps have suffered unimaginable loss, he said.

"It's like blow after blow after blow, and it's really overwhelming," he said. "Here is a family that's genuinely in need. If you can't help a family like this, who can you help?"

Still, the past week has been surprising in many good ways, John T. Estep said.

"We have so many people around us," he said. "And the fundraiser -- I can't even express how thankful I am for everybody helping out."

To contribute, visit youcaring.com and put "Estep" in the search box. The header "Double Tragedy for Estep Family" indicates the Estep family of Elgin.

Share this page
Comments ()
Guidelines: Keep it civil and on topic; no profanity, vulgarity, slurs or personal attacks. People who harass others or joke about tragedies will be blocked. If a comment violates these standards or our terms of service, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box. To find our more, read our FAQ.
    help here